First, having money saved up and squirreled away makes me feel safe—I worry less about a car repair or the crisis du jour. While I don’t think savings are wrong in and of themselves (Why, hello, Dave Ramsey, I didn’t see you there!), placing an inappropriate amount of trust in my savings certainly is. I end up having faith in money—rather than in Christ—for my security.
Second, spending money can make me feel really happy, at least for a while. I just got new running shoes. They are bright red. I call them my “Go fasters.” They’re fun, and I’m running more since I got them. But I can end up placing an inordinate amount of my self-worth in my stuff—these shoes, or my phone, or my house, or my new backpack. And then I find my identity in my possessions, rather than as a child of God.
Third, earning more money can be the fuel for my first two struggles. If I want to save money and spend money, I need more money. So I start thinking about drumming up some freelance writing and photography projects again for additional income. I hustle to find someone to rent a room in our house. I sell free-range eggs from our chickens, or look for other ways to make a buck. And I end up sacrificing my time for money in ways that are usually unwise.
Fourth, when money becomes my focus—whether saving or spending—and earning more money becomes an out-sized obsession, it’s not only my faith, my identity, and my time that get screwed up.
When I don’t view money correctly, my relationships suffer too. I am distanced from friends and neighbors that I might have asked for help in a pinch. My character erodes and even my immediate family and closest friends are held at arms’ length. Money becomes a proxy for community. My family gives up evenings or weekends with me while I toil away on extra work for extra money. Basically, I end up shorting my relationships with others when I am trying to serve Mammon, the Money God.
At the end of the day, these struggles sap my joy. My faith is weakened, my identity is corrupted, my time is squandered, and my relationships are ruptured. Focusing on money in these ways has no enduring positive result.
But there is an antidote.
When I give money away, I am brought closer to the God who has given me everything (James 1:17).
When I give money away, I find an enduring, positive identity—as a generous person.
When I give money away, I unmask the false promises of money—that savings or possessions will satisfy me.
When I give money away, time is preserved for the people who need it.
When I give money away, I am happy.
Giving money away breaks its spell. And you don’t have to look hard to find articles (like this one) and evidence (even this from Harvard) that prove it.
I tried it. I liked it.
Last year, my wife and I had this crazy idea to give away a big chunk of our savings, to give a well to a village in need, and to invite friends to join in too. It was a raging success.
A community got clean water. Friends joined in something good. And we had a great time. Yes, we had to give up some things. But the joy of this obedience far outstripped any sense of lack.
Surprisingly, when we give, we feel like Tigger, not Eeyore. I think this is what Paul was getting at when he wrote of “this grace of giving.”
So this holiday season (and on into January, February, March), let’s be truly happy. Even more, let’s be marked by joy. We’ll experience both by giving money away.